By Michael Vlismas
Joseph Kunene had a broad smile on his face as he watched the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) children who attended a golf clinic at the Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club earlier this week.
He was smiling because he is living proof of exactly how much golf can change a person’s life.
Kunene runs the SAGDB chapter in KwaZulu-Natal. At the Wild Coast he had brought 13 children from 10 schools in Durban and surrounds for a golf clinic that had to be held indoors because of the bad weather.
The weather didn’t stop Sunshine Tour professional Justin Harding from improvising a little and using a putting mat on the floor of the convention centre to help some of the young golfers with their putting.
And Kunene knows full well that there is no telling what such an interaction can do for a young golfer from an underprivileged background.
Kunene started his career in the game at the age of 13, working as a caddie to fund his schooling.
After Grade 12 he went to work in a local mine in Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal. There he was promoted to various managerial positions. But it was his exposure to and love for golf that really changed his life.
“In 1989 I became the first black member of Durnacol Golf Club in Newcastle. Then in 1994 I was voted onto the committee of the club, and in 1996 I became vice-captain. I also won the club championships for eight years in a row,” he says.
Kunene’s passion for the game saw him appointed as the development manager for the KwaZulu-Natal Golf Union.
“Then I was appointed to my current position with the SAGDB,” he says.
“I have seen how golf can change your life, and it can happen for any one of these kids as well. One of our golfers, 16-year-old Sthembiso Khaba, won two B Division tournaments during the school holidays. He comes from a very rural home in Groutville in KwaZulu-Natal, and his father is a general worker at a local housing estate. But I’ve seen how this game can change your life. I’ve been lucky to attend the Open Championship in Scotland with the SAGDB and meet all the top golfers. It can also happen for these young kids.”